The Thud of a Great Beast Stamping

“The waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. One after another they massed themselves and fell; the spray tossed itself back with the energy of their fall. The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Children’s Waterpark, Waxahachie, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Would anybody want it?

There’s a button on a stand. The button doesn’t do anything at first – but then the water, a little bit at first, then more and more and more until torrents are spewing from pipes and nozzles. A plastic bucket fills, tilts, and dumps it’s cargo of dihydrogen monoxide out in a foamy amoeba into the hot Texas sun.

Advertisements

In the Cathedral

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Three, Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Walking around the French Quarter we decided to stop off at the iconic (and beautiful) St. Louis Cathedral as a peaceful respite from the heat and a nice place to write for a bit. This is some of what I wrote there.

Saint Louis Cathedral from across the Mississippi River

The Devotion Machine

The Cathedral was designed – as all were – to draw the eyes upward, the attention and ultimately, the soul, toward heaven.

At first the peasants felt their rough clothes, callused hands, and freshly scrubbed skin acutely – feeling out of place, uneasy, and embarrassed at their poverty and the effects of a difficult and dangerous life. But the calm and quiet reverence would wear away their feelings of unease and they would accept the fact the opulent gilt statuary, soaring columns, and ceiling frescoes of Saints and the Christ peering down, magnanimous, as if through gaps in the clouds, were all intended for them. Each individual worker feeling as if this vast impressive building – this Machine for Devotion – was designed, constructed, and decorated for him and him alone. A personal miracle that helped him forget the world and dream of a higher place.

At least for a few precious seconds.

Children in the Cathedral

Down the center aisle two children – a small boy and his younger sister, almost a toddler – hopped along, playing a game of leaping contrasting floor tiles in a complicated very personal and mysterious children’s pattern. Their feet clomped and echoed through the vast silent space. All the supplicants stared in vexation.

“They think they own the place,” everyone thought to themselves – some daring to mumble out loud.

And that’s the horror of growing up, isn’t it. At that young age everyone owns the world. Over the next years those kids will come the slow horrifying realization that they own nothing.

This Ain’t Chuck-E-Cheese

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Window sign, Tattoo Parlor, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Seventeen – The Veldt

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day seventeen – The Veldt, by Ray Bradbury
Read it online here:

The Veldt

Today’s is a story I have read before – but it was so long ago I don’t remember it – so it counts as fresh. “The Veldt” was first published as “The World the Children Made” in 1950 – but it was later included in the anthology “The Illustrated Man” in 1951. I read that book as a child (and saw the movie – which “The Veldt” is in also) – so I know I’ve read it before. I do have a memory of the movie version – maybe that wiped out the written word.

At any rate, even though the story is almost seventy years old (wow!) it could be written today. The only thing that dates it are the prices – a state of the art luxury automated home cost thirty thousand dollars – the author obviously intended that to seem like a lot of money.

The story is about the evils that can befall you if you buy into luxury too much and lose sight of the real world. For these parents, the real world gets in through the artificial luxury and bites them on the ass (literally). Oh, and it’s no coincidence that the kid’s names are Peter and Wendy (as in Pan and Darling).

“Everything. Where before they had a Santa Claus now they have a Scrooge. Children prefer Santas. You’ve let this room and this house replace you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their mother and father, far more important in their lives than their real parents. And now you come along and want to shut it off. No wonder there’s hatred here. You can feel it coming out of the sky. Feel that sun. George, you’ll have to change your life. Like too many others, you’ve built it around creature comforts. Why, you’d starve tomorrow if something went wrong in your kitchen. You wouldn’t know how to tap an egg. Nevertheless, turn everything off. Start new. It’ll take time. But we’ll make good children out of bad in a year, wait and see.”

It’s interesting to compare and contrast this story to the one from day six, The Semplica-Girl Diaries. Both are the stories of parents trying to give their children the best the world has to offer, and failing terribly. Both are brought down by their children (one set on purpose, the other as an unintended consequence) as a result of an extravagant purchase – a present – done with the best of intentions.

And we all know what road those pave.

There Was Something About Clowns That Was Worse Than Zombies

“There was something about clowns that was worse than zombies. (Or maybe something that was the same. When you see a zombie, you want to laugh at first. When you see a clown, most people get a little nervous. There’s the pallor and the cakey mortician-style makeup, the shuffling and the untidy hair. But clowns were probably malicious, and they moved fast on those little bicycles and in those little crammed cars. Zombies weren’t much of anything. They didn’t carry musical instruments and they didn’t care whether or not you laughed at them. You always knew what zombies wanted.”
― Kelly Link, The Living Dead

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

Klyde Warren Park,
Dallas, Texas

Procrastination with Google Maps

I have been suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block and have been spending too much time staring at a blank screen, waiting in vain for some sort of a useful idea to come bubbling up from… well, from wherever useful ideas bubble up from. Of course, the staring doesn’t last very long until it is replaced by silly web-surfing. You know how that goes.

So I was wasting time by GoogleMap StreetViewing (I’m no fan of the current fashion of converting tech nouns into verbs, such as in the phrase of “Netflixing through Mad Men,” but this is what life is in this best of all possible worlds with) places that I used to live and I came up with this shot:

Live Oak in back of the house I used to live in.

Live Oak in back of the house I used to live in.

First, it’s interesting that in my old neighborhood they even have GoogleMaps StreetView in the alley. Let that sink in for a minute. Not only did the Google car drive down the street taking photos willy-nilly to post for all to see, but then it proceeded to creep down the alley in back of the houses, doing the same thing. The alleys there were extra-wide (the kids used to cone them off at the end of the block and play roller hockey on the concrete) but… just sayin’.

What I thought was cool is that tree there. The big one in the corner of what used to be my yard.

My son Nick (now in his final classes at Duke University) was a toddler. He was born in East Dallas, a few miles north of this spot, and we moved before our second son, Lee (now a financial analyst in New Orleans) was born eighteen months later. I’m pretty sure the tree was planted before Lee was born, so Nick would have been about a year old.

I took Nick down to the Dallas Arboreteum for a Saturday afternoon. When we arrived, I discovered they were giving out free trees. I picked up a Live Oak planted in a recycled coffee can and brought it home, intending to plant it in the yard of our then-new-to-us home.

It looked substantial in the can, but after digging the hole and getting rid of the container the tree was only about an inch and a half high. It was dwarfed by the weeds that surrounded it. Everybody thought it was ridiculous and that I was an idiot for planting such a tiny sprig.

Still, despite the ridicule (probably because of the ridicule) I stuck it out. I carefully marked out the area around the twig to make sure it wasn’t mowed over or trampled upon. I watered it faithfully and tended it as best I could.

And, wonder of wonders, it grew. Fast. It grew like a weed. I talked to a friend that is a landscape architect and he said, “The smaller a tree is when you plant it, the bigger it will be in ten years.” Something that small doesn’t suffer the shock of transplantation, which sets a tree way back.

A few years later, it was already as high as my head. Putting in a new fence, the wind caught a panel and yanked it out of my hands. It landed on the tall, but still thin tree, smashing it flat. I was horrified.

I carefully raised the reedy trunk back up and staked the tree in position. I expected it to die, but, surprise, it didn’t miss a beat.

And now look at it. It’s one of the largest trees in the neighborhood. When we moved in, the block was thick with fast-growing “junk” trees – put in by the original developer to give quick green. Those have all now (mostly) succumbed to disease and are either gone or skeletal ghosts.

The sturdy oak is still growing.

I’m proud of the fact that I planted that tree (also proud that I got it for free). We moved out about ten years ago, when our kids were in Middle School. Nobody in the neighborhood knows this story, but I do, and that’s what’s important.

It’s also cool that the tree is the same age as my kids. If you have little ones – go out and plant a tree in your yard, or a park, or somewhere that needs one. The decades go by faster than you imagine is possible and a sturdy oak will rise to mark the passage of time with some welcome shade.